Politics at Work: Tips to Stay Above the Fray

Tug-of-warSince before the time of Julius Caesar, politics have been an essential part of society. People often feel that jockeying for position is time well spent, and although it is unfortunate, it is an entirely unavoidable part of the modern workplace. In companies of all sizes, from startups to Fortune 500’s, politics are something each employee has to figure out how to manage.

Here are 3 tips on how to make the most of a political organization while staying ‘above’ the fray.

1) Put the Company Before Yourself

Politically motivated people tend to get distracted from what is most important.  They often focus on doing things and making decisions that are best for them.  “Will this be good for ME?”  “Will I get credit for this?”  Focus on doing what is best for the company, what is best for the team, and what is best for you individually, in that order. Why? If your actions and decisions always put the company first, you never have to apologize or defend your position. There is no downside to doing what’s right for the company.

2) Share Everything

Politicians tend to want to keep their cards close to their vest. They perceive a personal advantage to being the insider, the one that ‘holds the keys’ more than others. The problem with this is that it puts the prioritization from point #1 in reverse order:  holding onto things is a benefit to an individual first, not the best thing for the company.

If you create an asset or find a story that you think others will benefit from, share it.  If someone sends you something that others would benefit from, share it.  Sooner or later people will find the best assets for themselves – why not help them find them sooner? Tools like Chatterbox include features that let you share files and other assets with anyone in the company. 

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Sharing transparently benefits the business.  This sharing may prove beneficial to you too – but that’s an outcome, not the intent.

3) Communicate Transparently

A favored tactic of politicians is to communicate discretely.  It’s easier to influence an individual than it is to manipulate the masses, especially if the idea being shared is not in everyone’s best interest.  Instead of instant messenger and e-mails, communicate out in the open so everyone knows what you are saying and to whom you are saying it. Products like Chatter let everyone in the company see what you are ‘saying’ to anyone else. That’s not the case with instant messengers or e-mails.  

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Obviously, there are conversations that should be private: compensation, time off requests, and the like, and for things like this you should maintain discretion with your boss or HR.  For almost anything that is focused on ‘what’s best for the company,’ talk about it where others can join the conversation. You’ll be amazed at how even the political operators can’t hide when the discussion is available to every employee.

Politics are a part of doing business, and have been with us for centuries, but they don’t have to distract you from doing your best work.  Do what’s right for the company, share and communicate transparently, and the politics will take care of themselves.

LBBweb